Pelton announces precautionary measures against coronavirus outbreak

By Andrew Brinker, Senior Investigative Reporter

The college has prepared a contingency plan and will review the safety procedures of its vendors in an effort to prepare the community for the rapidly spreading COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus, President M. Lee Pelton said in an email to students Monday night.

In the email, he said the college would review safety procedures of critical vendors who regularly visit campus but did not specify which ones. He also did not elaborate on what a possible contingency plan could look like. 

Pelton further advised that community members adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended preventative measures against COVID-19, which align closely with the guidelines for preventing the flu or common cold.

The new precautionary measures come after the college announced the cancellation of the Kasteel Well study abroad program Monday afternoon. All 81 students currently living in the Netherlands castle will return to Boston this week.

In an email to parents of students currently at the castle, Kasteel Well Executive Director Dulcia Meijers said the conclusion to send students back to Boston was based in “an abundance of caution” and recommendations from the CDC. 

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“The safe return of the students to Boston is our highest priority,” Meijers said in the email. 

Travel plans have not yet been finalized.

The decision comes on the heels of a rapid increase of COVID-19 cases in Europe in the last week, particularly in Italy, which had nearly 2,000 diagnoses as of Monday night, according to the World Health Organization.

Pelton also doubled down on the college’s recommendation against nonessential travel to China and South Korea in his email and further urged students to avoid travelling to countries with a sustained presence of the virus like Italy, Iran, and Japan.

While he said the risk to Emerson’s campuses from the virus is still low, Pelton said the college will continue to take all necessary precautions.

“Please know that the College continues to monitor COVID-19, which is an unpredictable, changing situation, and we remain in close contact with local, regional, national, and global public health experts,” the email reads.  

As of Monday night, nearly 90,000 people in over 70 countries have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 3,000 have died, including six in the U.S, according to the WHO.